“Evil Eye” Across Many Cultures

I chose to write about the “evil eye” theory found in many cultures particularly outside of the United States. Not only is this a common ideology found in many parts of the world, but it is something that is a big part of my own culture as well. Having lived in both Iran and the U.S. I have been subject to a lifetime of this “evil eye.” From having the blue eyes hanging in our house to “ward off the evil eye” , to growing up with its different connotations and meanings, I know a lot about the meaning behind it, but used this opportunity to find further information in this particular article as well .

In the article by Allan Berger “The Evil Eye-an Ancient Superstition”, the meaning behind the concept of the “evil eye” is that it stems from ancient beliefs that those who have bad intentions or feelings of jealousy towards someone have the ability to bring about physical illness or pain. Those who are guilty of this evil eye may not always be aware of this power that they hold either. However, they tend to “cast” their unlucky spell upon those who are beautiful, good-looking, wealthy, or hold some sort of asset in general. It can have effects such a illness, death, loss of wealth, and any other unfortunate circumstances.

Biologically, the only aspects of the evil eye that can be “diagnosed” are very common symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, headache, fever, etc. Technically these symptoms could be diagnosed for a variety of things, therefore it is necessary to look at the cultural and individual dimensions of the theory as well. Culturally, the evil eye is only thought to be the cause of an illness if there has been a very recent encounter with someone who seemed to give off envious or malicious vibes. Individually, one can probably think hard enough and come up with at least one person who has crossed their path recently who can be responsible for these symptoms.  Therefore, it really comes down to an evaluation of all three dimensions in order to fully understand if and how the concept of the “evil eye” is at play.

As mentioned before, the concept of the evil eye is one that is widespread among many cultures, particularly middle eastern ones. Each culture/religion has their own coping and healing mechanisms. For one thing, I know that in my family when the evil eye was thought to have been encountered we would smash a raw egg outside in the streets as a symbol of “breaking the evil eye which may bring about bad luck.” Even in the article, Berger mentioned that his friend kept a clove of garlic around his neck and a red horn shaped good luck charm in his pocket. This concept primarily lies in the folk sector for these reasons. It is more so something that is diagnosed in the cultural dimension, and is many times treated with a holistic approach that is specific to that culture.

Berger, Allan S. 2012. The evil eye–an ancient superstition. Journal of Religion and Health 51, (4) (12): 1098-103, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10943-011-9493-5#page-1

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  1. Jenelle Dushane says:

    This article was very intriguing to me because I have been told before I give the evil eye. When I do it is not that I am aiming to harm anyone its more that I am so mad so this is my nonviolent coping mechanism to let out my anger and express my feeling.
    Too me, culturally is how everything you have that makes you believe a certain way, from the things you have been taught to the things you have observed. It is your personal view on life, how you perceive things. I never seen this as a syndrome that lead to an illness but more just an expression of anger. So to me this is not cultural, but I have not heard the same thing you have heard.
    It does not seem like culture because anyone can give an evil look/eye to another person. It is not just based on a certain group of people. The advantages would be more that anyone does it and the disadvantage is that we do not know why we do it, whether to evoke harm or just express feeling. Another disadvantage is we do not know the “folk” treatment to be heeled from evil eye.

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